“Ethics are not necessarily to do with being law-abiding. I am very interested in the moral path, doing the right thing.” —Kate Atkinson
Released four years ago on March 17, 2012, Strike Witches: The Movie follows in the aftermath of Strike Witches’ second season, during which Yoshika had exhausted her magic reserves in destroying a Neuroi hive to save Mio. Two months following this, Yoshika has set her sights on becoming a medical doctor and is studying to enter medical school, but after Shizuka Hattori informs Yoshika that she is to study abroad at a prestigious medical school in Helvetia, Yoshika accepts the offer. Concurrently, Charlotte and Francesca are forced to engage Neuroi in Venezia, following a gondola race with some members of the 504th Joint Fighter Wing, and back in Karlsland, Commander Minna sends Erica and Gertrude to investigate the presence of Neuroi that are apparently coming out of the blue. Back on the Akagi, Shizuka grows frustrated by Yoshika’s disregard for military protocol, and upon their arrival in Gallia, she shares a conversation with Perrine about how Yoshika’s actions and beliefs have benefitted the 501st as a whole. Continuing on their journey, Yoshika and Shizuka stop at a village along the River Rhine to aid landslide victims, and later, encounter additional Neuroi. Despite the pair’s efforts, Shizuka is shot down and Yoshika’s efforts to engage a Neuroi, while successful, leaves her critically wounded. Shizuka comes to and manages to escape the Neuroi’s jamming field long enough to rally the 501st, who become notified of Yoshika’s situation. Hearing the thoughts and feelings of her friends, Yoshika recovers her magic and, upon receiving her old striker unit from Mio, takes to the skies to aid the 501st in taking out the Neuroi. Commander Minna subsequently reactivates the 501st after learning that the Neuroi are mounting a counteroffensive. Grossing around two hundred million yen (2.35 million CAD with the current exchange rates), Strike Witches: The Movie does not hold a candle to some of the more popular anime movies that have come out (the Love Live! The School Idol Movie grossed 2.86 billion yen, or 33.74 million CAD) or even some of the larger anime movies I’ve had the chance to enjoy (K-On! The Movie grossed 1.9 billion yen, roughly 22.42 million CAD, and Madoka Magica: Rebellion Story totalled 2.08 billion yen, roughly 24.54 million CAD). However, despite the commonly-held misconceptions about Strike Witches and its unusual design where characters forgo pants, Strike Witches: The Movie nonetheless holds its own merits as a film, and moreover, foreshadows the future directions of the Strike Witches franchise as a whole.
In comparison to Strike Witches’ first two seasons, Strike Witches: The Movie begins to develop a more substantial narrative to explore how the different characters eventually culminate in meeting up and engaging an unexpected Neuroi threat. Throughout the movie, it becomes clear that the film is meant to follow Shizuka’s journey with of the 501st’s most illustrious members. Initially, Shizuka becomes quite impatient with Yoshika: the latter has never treated military protocol or formalities with any real degree of seriousness, and this attitude was what landed her in a variety of situations during the TV series. As Perrine remarks, Yoshika will disregard orders that seem contrary to her own internal sense of right and wrong: this is exemplified when the Akagi strikes an iceberg, and despite lacking any magic, uses all of her resources to save a trapped sailor. Thus, Shizuka spends much of the film berating Yoshika, stating that “orders are absolute”. From a real world perspective, this is true: there is a chain of command and strict structuring in the armed forces to maintain order, and to ensure that unnecessary loss does not result from lack of discipline. However, through Yoshika, Strike Witches appears to be emphasising that the fictional Witches themselves are not meant to be seen strictly as soldiers: they’re dynamic, three-dimensional beings with their own beliefs and desires. It is this dimensionality that allows the 501st, and Yoshika in particular, to have left such an impact on how the Joint Fighter Wing performs. The moral of Strike Witches: The Movie therefore is that following one’s internal sense of right and wrong against orders is sometimes an necessary evil in extraordinary circumstances, and Shizuka eventually has an opportunity to see for herself why Yoshika is such an effective Witch despite her nonchalant attitude towards military hierarchies.
Screenshots and Commentary
- Both my old Strike Witches: The Movie reviews were written four years ago, and the original review spent quite a bit of time drawing parallels with this film and Gundam 00: Awakening of the Trailblazer, comparing the two film’s respective dependence on some familiarity with two previous seasons’ worth of materials in order to be fully enjoyed. In both cases, the films are intended for existing fans of their respective franchises, and are quite unsuited for individuals who’ve not prior familiarity.
- Compared to how I wrote four years previously, it’s actually quite surprising that the manner in which I write has largely remained unchanged, although armed with four extra years of insight, I tend to delve into patterns and themes more efficiently than I did with my previous review of the movie. I note that while this post no longer lays claim to having the internet’s first set of Strike Witches: The Movie screenshots, it definitely has more screenshots than my two previous reviews (each of which had the unusual count of fifteen images).
- Consequently, it’s been somewhat of a challenge to ensure that this review features a completely different set of screenshots than was used in both of my earlier reviews, and typically, this is why I don’t often go back and review things more than three times: it becomes progressively harder to get new screenshots the more reviews I do. Here, Shizuka delivers the letter of offer to Yoshika at the Miyafuji residence, and both Yoshika’s grandmother and mother can be seen; it’s quite clear that Yoshika takes off after her grandmother.
- After a speed race goes awry, Francesca hits her head on one of the numerous foot bridges in Venice (Venezia in Italian) and requires healing from one of the 504th Witches. Set after the events of Operation Victory Arrow, Strike Witches: The Movie initially begins with different Witches scattered around Europe following the second season, although everyone does seem to retain a connection to Yoshika in some way to serve as a constant reminder of how strong of an impact Yoshika’s had on the 501st.
- Charlotte aims down sights while engaging an unexpected Neuroi over Venice. Most of the Neuroi the Witches initially engage are mobile transformable types with a large ring in their midsection, hinting at the fact that they all originate from the same source. This is compounded by the fact that no Neuori hive is capable of deploying units outside of their radius, so where the Neuroi are appearing from forms the basis for a section of the movie’s narrative.
- Shizuka hails from a family of soldiers, and being the first Witch, expectations were high for her to do the family proud. She’s adamant about adherence to regulations and is shocked to learn that Yoshika is remarkably blasé about said regulations. She pulls Yoshika out of the kitchens here and later lectures her after Yoshika decides to help the Akagi’s crew keep the flight deck clean.
- However, Yoshika has a significantly more serious side to her, as well: she has a strong sense of morality and will go to great lengths to save others even if it means putting herself in harm’s way. Her expression here is rarely seen, and despite being an uncommonly empathetic, kind individual, Yoshika’s angry state is quite something to behold.
- Shizuka’s reaction to her idol’s preferred manner of greeting an old friend is one of embarrassment: from the documentation, Yoshika is particularly fond of Lynette, and it’s their first time meeting since the second season ended (so, roughly two months).
- The last time I saw Perrine’s residence was in the third of the Operation Victory Arrow OVAs: while released well after the movie, I find that the movie to flow better because the setup in the OVAs give more exposition as to what the different characters are up to: Minna, Gertrude and Erica are operating from St. Trond’s base near the Karlsland border, Lynette and Perrine are helping reconstruction efforts in Gallia, and Francesca and Charlotte go on adventures near the Mediterranean.
- After botching her dish during dinner, Shizuka finds herself feeling down; in sharing a conversation with Perrine, she learns that Yoshika’s unusual position as a member of the 501st leaves an indelible impact on the others. This scene definitely highlights how far Perrine’s come since the first season: jealous of Yoshika’s closeness to Mio, she sabotaged Yoshika quite frequently, but by the end of the second season, their experiences together means that the two get along quite well. This sort of character development was a welcome bonus in a series better known for its pantsu moments.
- I wonder if some viewers are still salty that Eila and Sanya did not get an episode to themselves during Operation Victory Arrow: they only appeared in the OVA’s final moments, and are first seen in the movie shortly before they are seen off by members of the 502nd. Four years after the movie released, and three years after Vividred Operation, there’s finally been traces of intel concerning the continuation. Unverified sources state that it will deal with the 502nd, and truth be told, I’m looking for a narrative similar in cohesiveness to what was seen during Operation Victory Arrow and the film.
- Under overcast and foggy conditions, Eila and Sanya set off for their next destination. Like Francesca and Charlotte before them, Eila and Sanya also wonder how Yoshika’s doing: Eila pulls out the “Tower” tarot card, often associated with disruptive, and (possibly) destructive change. In Harry Potter, it foretell’s Dumbledore’s death, and while not quite as pronounced in Strike Witches The Movie, foretell’s Yoshika’s fate in the movie’s climax.
- En route to Helvetica, Yoshika learns of a landslide and immediately resolves to help out. The radio jamming properties the Neuroi exhibit exacerbate the situation, making it difficult for the Witches to call in reinforcements and support. These elements deliberately act to set up the events of the movie’s final twenty minutes, and it is at this point where I realise that my screenshot distribution for the film are largely skewed, as with the reviews that came before this.
- With Yoshika’s help, most of the villager’s injuries are tended to; the number of injured is great, and running out of bandages, Yoshika decides to use her uniform that Lynette had painstakingly sewn as makeshift bandages, demonstrating once more her commitment to people. Yoshika is oft-criticised for being a generic character (unyielding morals, seeming lack of weaknesses, a kind personality), and while I was intending to do a standalone talk on why generic protagonists continue to endure in anime, it appears that I can succinctly cover the points in some of the bullet points in this here review.
- As with everyone previously, Yoshika’s impact is sufficient to positively influence Gertrude, Erica and Minna. I argued previously that the generic female protagonist (seen elsewhere in Kantai Collection‘s Fubuki and Girls und Panzer‘s Miho Nishizumi) serve to provide a consistent yard stick to build a series around. A familiar character would (in the beginning) act as an anchor that helps audiences acclimatise to the different worlds presented by different anime.
- Then, as a series continues, the so-called generic character might grow and become more mature/adapted for their world to illustrate how their unique group of friends and world shapes who they become. Fubuki becomes a more competent kan-musume ready to sail alongside Akagi in combat, and Miho rediscovers her joy for Panzerfahren, while Yoshika appreciates that helping people can come in all forms. These differences are subtle, so it is quite possible that the most vehement of critics lack the subtlety to pick out on these developments.
- Shizuka’s first combat sortie against the Neuroi sees her shoot down a small number, but she’s downed after witnessing (and becoming distracted) the scope of destruction the Neuroi leave. Her propensity to talk out her next actions while preparing to fire for the first time may seem a little unusual, but this isn’t uncommon: I used to talk it out during my first few weeks of driving, and it’s only with practise where my actions gradually become guided by skill rather than by mechanically reciting guidelines.
- The Operation Victory Arrow OVAs show that Neuroi can be destroyed by means of conventional weaponry, although the movie exemplifies Yoshika’s sheer determination through her act of taking out a tower-like Neuroi without a Striker Unit. Up until this point (which was before Operation Victory Arrow was even known), no forces were shown to successfully destroy a Neuroi without direct action from the Witches.
- However, Yoshika’s heroics are offset by her becoming grievously wounded in the process. Desperate, Shizuka calls for help and soon realises that the communication jamming would preclude any assistance from reaching Yoshika in time.
- Today marks the four year anniversary since Strike Witches The Movie came out in Japanese theatres, and in a most pleasant turn of events, the food trucks were on campus. To kick the year off, I decided to go with a fried chicken poutine, which was as hearty and delicious as ever (today was a bit colder than the previous days, so something rich was most welcome). The food trucks came earlier this year, on the eve of my rehearsal for the upcoming conference workshop presentation. Aside from some minor changes, it seems that I’m good to go, and the departure date is coming up quite soon, so it’s time to finalise all of my documents and pack.
- Some viewers erroneously believe that the light is what restores Yoshika’s power, but the light results from Yoshika reactivating her magic. In my initial post, I mentioned that Yoshika’s regaining of her magical abilities was not unreasonable, given that she’s already stated to have strong innate magical reserves, and drew the comparison to a rechargeable cell: the events of season two had drained her existing reserves, but she’d since recovered.
- I wonder what tools were used to animate the swarms of Neuroi drones (and by extension, Gundam 00 Awakening of the Trailblazer‘s ELS). As part of my coursework this term, I implemented a simple version of Craig Reynold’s BOIDS to demonstrate flocking in Unity, and I wonder if animation software come along with similar systems to aid animators in creating complex, dynamic swarms.
- After Yoshika reunites with everyone in the skies, a massive battlecruiser-like Neuroi appears, and so, the 501st finally fight together for the first time in Strike Witches: The Movie. It still surprises me as to how quiet the Japanese audiences were about the film after its release, standing in sharp contrast with Girls und Panzer Der Film, which was widely discussed and generated much more excitement. With that being said, the movies’ respective box office gross values might be indicative of the differences in viewership, accounting for the differences in discussion quantity.
- When Strike Witches The Movie premièred in Japanese theatres four years ago, I was an undergraduate engaged in a presentation for biochemistry, studying for a cell and molecular biology midterm and working on a term project, finishing assignments for bioinformatics and writing a term paper on the implications of the Space Race for a course on military history of the Cold War. From this site’s archives, I played quite a bit of Team Fortress 2 during this time, as well, and began watching Angel Beats!.
- All of this was before the MCAT, which I did that summer: between studying for said MCAT, I was waiting for the K-On! Movie, playing Microvolts and Team Fortress 2 (or watching Survivorman and Mythbusters) in my spare time, and so, despite the release date being announced in June 2012, Strike Witches The Movie fell from my mind. The MCAT came and went, and on the day of the exam in August, I watched sections of the K-On! Movie to calm my nerves. By the time my exam was over, the land was awash under the golden light of an evening sun, and after a dinner at the same Chinese bistro I mentioned in my earlier Tamayura ~Sotsugyou Shashin~ discussion, I slept the best sleep that I had all summer.
- The remainder of the summer was spent working on my first-ever journal publication and preparing the framework for my undergraduate thesis. However, it was not all work; I also had the chance to drive out to the mountains for a short vacation and also watched The Dark Knight Rises in theatres. Soon, September arrived, during which I received my MCAT score, and my undergraduate thesis project started. September turned into October, and I busied myself with implementing a multi-scale model of the human renal system. When the movie released, I set aside the Friday evening to watch and review it, publishing the first set of screenshots (or frame grabs, whatever floats your boat) on the internet: when it comes down to it, I will work doubly hard on my main commitments so I can have a free evening or even a free day to properly review an anime movie.
- My first review predominantly dealt with the fight prior to the battlecruiser-type Neuroi on account of spoilers and so, did not feature any of the Formation Julius tricks the 501st use to blow away this new Neuroi: using Yoshika’s shields as cover, the Witches punch straight through the battlecruiser-type to end its threat. The time has come to change that, and it is the group’s willingness to use unusual tactics, spurred on by Yoshika’s capabilities, that make them unique.
- It’s quite surprising as to how quickly four years flies by, and although my aspirations for medical school were displaced by software development (a consequence of realising just how much I enjoyed the design, implementation and testing of my renal system simulation), I nonetheless recall memories of watching Strike Witches: The Movie and all of the work I did during that point quite vividly. Halo 4 was set to come out during October 2012, and Girls und Panzer had just began its televised run.
- After seeing the 501st in combat with her own eyes, Shizuka realises that all of the stories were true, and her admiration for Yoshika is restored. She flies up to greet her and agrees to call her by name rather than rank. With the communications restored, the Witches move to take on new threats, and after the end credits roll, viewers are left with the message “to be continued”, which would become the only known bit of intel about the movie for seven months.
- Thus ends my revisitation of Strike Witches: The Movie: while four years may have passed, the film remains as enjoyable as ever, and my recommendation for it to Strike Witches fans have not changed. It’s got elements to bring new viewers up to speed, but existing fans will definitely appreciate the nuances in the movie to a greater extent. This is the last of my posts for the present: as alluded to earlier, I’m flying out to a conference in a few days and will be too busy to write anything (between giving a workshop presentation and checking out all of the exhibitions). As such, regular posting will resume during the last week of March or early April, during which I will be reviewing Aokana and Haruchika in full.
The largest surprises Strike Witches: The Movie leaves behind is in its final moments, when Yoshika regains her magic, and after the ending credits, when the message “to be continued” is shown. Addressing Yoshika’s magic, this appeared to be the greatest point of contention amongst the viewers: some feel that it’s an acceptable narrative device, given that it allows for the 501st’s adventures to continue, while others found that the plot hole surrounding Yoshika were unacceptable and dampened the overall experience. I tend towards the former: Strike Witches never struck me as a serious anime because of its premise. Intrinsically, Strike Witches has always been driven by its characters rather than any sort of hard (or even soft) scientific basis, so in a sense, that the spirit of camaraderie is sufficient to reawaken Yoshika’s magic, despite coming across as being deus ex machina, nonetheless is the minimum satisfactory explanation that provides an opportunity to simply have Yoshika take flight once more and providing Shizuka with a demonstration that her idol, despite not observing military protocol, nonetheless is every bit as capable as she’d heard: she resolves to one day be as skillful as Yoshika. The other surprise was, of course, that a continuation of some sort would be coming. There was some speculation that it would again deal with the 501st, and while the Operation Victory Arrow OVAs appeared to signal an end to Strike Witches, this continuation appears to be taking the form of a third season following the 502nd Joint Fighter Wing. On the whole, my opinions on the movie have not changed too dramatically from when I first watched it back during October 2012: the visual and aural elements withstand the test of time, as do the pacing and execution of the narrative (so, the animation still looks quite polished, and the story does not appear to have diminished in comparison with newer installments of Strike Witches). In fact, having seen the Operation Victory Arrow OVAs, I can append that Strike Witches: The Movie represents the franchise’s first step in a new direction, driven by a story of some sort rather than pure fanservice. The OVAs take a leaf from Strike Witches: The Movie in that there is a consistent story, and this does mark a welcome direction in a franchise where the alternate history offers numerous opportunities for world-building: if this holds true for any sort of continuation, Strike Witches will prove to be more than a mere anime about pantsu.